Fundraising is a great opportunity to play your part and go the extra mile for the NHS. For Dr Parviz Habibi, it was a chance to swim the extra mile!
In 2016 the Consultant Paediatrician who set up the children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s set off from Dover at dawn and swam 44 miles across the English Channel to raise over £22,000 for the More Smiles Appeal.
After completing four relay channel swims and training for two years, Dr Habibi decided he was ready to tackle the challenge on his own, but nothing could prepare him for the difficulties he’d face.
Dr Habibi said: “You’re in water that’s below 16 degrees, you’ve got no wetsuit, you’re hypothermic, you’re hungry because you cannot take in the 700 calories you’re burning every hour.”
“At 14 hours I thought I couldn't make it. They train you for distance and endurance but they also teach you how to get rid of the channel swim demons, the negative thoughts that start coming to you.”
Despite the sheer physical and mental strain, Dr Habibi was helped through it all by the support of friends, family, and people he’d never met, spurring him on to a triumphant finish in 19 hours and 12 minutes.
“They had a huge board where they put all the tweets that were coming through. FaceTime was on, my grandchildren were shouting at me and all the time I could see the money that I’d raised shooting up.”
Every penny raised by his swim will go towards the expansion and refurbishment of the children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital, helping the unit care for an extra 200 children each year.
Despite raising such a staggering amount, Dr Habibi is determined to get back into the water.
“Next year I'm swimming to France and back. You're allowed 10 minutes on land to rest. That's going to be my swansong, the last I'll ever do.”
“There are many good causes but there isn't one more special than paediatric intensive care. Children are our future and that's why we do it. Any child lost to us is a loss of our future.”
For more information about how you can give back to the NHS on its 70th birthday, click here.